Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Striving for the goal

Last summer when the cancer seemed to be at bay I challenged myself to start running and had a goal of running in a 5K in 2009. I might be an outdoorsy type of person and love to hike and kayak, but I am not an athlete. I have never run in my life, but something was driving me try something new. To further challenge myself I signed up for a 24 hour bike relay in September 2008. I had not been on a bike since before my diagnosis in June 2007 and was not sure I remembered how to pedal, but I wanted to participate in an event to raise awareness for cancer. Sadly the bike ride was rained out due to hurricane Hannah. Coincidently a week before the scheduled bike ride I learned that my cancer was back with a vengeance. Over the future months as I went through treatments and my health declined it became apparent to me that I was not going to run any races.

However, I did not let my disease stop me and in November 2008 I decided that I would complete a 5K in 2009. I set my goals on the Howard Life Festival in April 2009. While I knew I could not run it as previously hoped, but I was still going to participate. During treatments in November through January I became very weak and there was a time that many thought (including myself at times) that this was an unrealistic goal to set for myself. However, I was determined that the 5K was something I was going to do. I did joke that I might have to do the walk in a wheelchair, but I was going to be at the event.

Just walking in the 5K was not enough for me, I wanted to do something more for the cause of fighting cancer so I decided to join Team Fight. Team Fight is a group through the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults that is committed to fundraising to advocate and educate for the cause of young adults fighting cancer while training for endurance events such as runs and triathlons. I set a goal of raising $500.00 for Team Fight and Ulman.

In January 2009 I sent out my first fundraising email and started walking every Saturday with friends around Lake Elkhorn in Columbia. The going was slow for both the fundraising and the walking. I was usually so exhausted after a slow stroll around the lake that I needed to take a nap afterwards. As March approached I had doubts in both my walking and my fundraising abilities, but I kept at it. Due to weather we had only walked a couple of weekends and I had only raised $250. I recommitted to the event. Amber, Dani and I walked 1.8 miles every Saturday and I sent out another email asking for support from my family and friends. All I wanted to do was raise $500.00 and walk 3 miles. After sending out the email, my email box became full with notifications of donations made on my fundraising web page. When I started to review the donations I realized there were donations made by people I did not know. I was overwhelmed by the support that I received. Not only did people step up to donate money, but then also signed up to participate in the event by running or walking with me.

On Sunday, April 26th I participated in the Howard County Life Festival that was sponsored by The Ulman Cancer Fund and Blossoms of Hope. For me a miracle happened that day. I completed my first 5K. There were 10 people that walked or ran the event as part of my “team” and 5 individuals that stuck with me from beginning to end. We joked that our goal was to come in last, but my goal was just to finish.

We were the last group to finish the race, but my awesome friends slowed down at the end to let me cross the finish line before them. I can’t begin to tell you what it was like to walk across the finish line. During much of the walk/race my chest hurt and I felt as though the tumors in my lungs were going to explode, but that all went away the last hundred yards or so. I considered sprinting across the finish line, but decided it was better to be slow and steady. I crossed the finish line with my arms in the air and a whoop from my mouth, but most evident was my smile.

I accomplished something that I strived to do, but there were times I wondered if I was able. I had unwavering support from my family and friends. There were co-workers, friends, and other Team Fight members cheering me on throughout the race and especially at the finish line. My finish time was 1:03:44, much better than expected. Possibly sweetest part about finishing the walk was seeing my mom at the end. She was there to cheer me on and witness my accomplishment. Having her there made it all the more special.

In the end I have raised $1770.00 - a far cry from my original goal of $500. I could not have done this without the support of everyone and I don’t mean the money, but just the attempt at doing something physical while my body is fighting for my life against this evil cancer. I will always remember April 26, 2009 as a day a dream came true and a time that determination won the day.